Early Monday morning, after a late night of family-friendly mayhem following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ historical NBA finals victory, I woke up before the sun and headed out to buy seven copies of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. One for each of the kids, a copy on the pillow for my shell-shocked husband and a few extras for my awesome neighbors and siblings. While I may not be a tried and true sports fan, I resent the term “band wagon” because I have loved men who love Cleveland sports my entire life – which is a special kind of commitment all its own.
And I love Cleveland. When I made this city my home straight out of college, I had no idea I was cementing my future as the wife and mother in a house full of tortured sports fans, or that I would become such a die-hard supporter of Cleveland, the city America loves to hate. Even my kids have a hard time understanding why I get teary-eyed watching that last minute of the 2016 NBA Championships. Thankfully, they probably never will understand. Because my kids are growing up in a world where Cleveland wins!
So as much of the city still slept, I sipped my morning coffee and tried to reconcile the beautiful, magical BELIEVE IT! front page headline with everything else going on in my heart and my mind. How does it feel to live in a championship city? I think it’s going to take us a long while to feel comfortable answering that question. For many Cleveland residents, the psychological impacts of loss and struggle are so deeply embedded in our collective psyche that it’s confusing to think of ourselves any other way. I stared at the image of LeBron James hugging the NBA trophy and thought, “Now we are winners. Everything has changed.”
Then I turned to page two and saw what would have been the original headline of Monday’s newspaper: “Remembering the Orlando victims” with an image of The Very Reverend Tracey Lind of Trinity Cathedral, an openly gay leader in Cleveland’s oldest congregation, hugging Isam Zaim, the co-founder and former board president of the Cleveland Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). I recognized them both and instinctively smiled, another reminder of all that is good in our city and an act of interfaith unity when America’s LGBTQ and Muslim communities, both hurting and vulnerable, could easily be pictured at odds with the Christian church. But not this time. And not in our city. Thankfully, the same resilience, spirit and determination that has led our sports team to the national spotlight also exists in our religious leaders and community activists.
Monday’s secondary headline is just one example of the long-standing collaboration between such groups throughout Cleveland. I first heard Zaim speak at Trinity shortly after the terrorist attacks in Paris and he continues to offer educational and informative open dialogues on a regular basis, trying to counteract the fear-based hysteria media often cultivates.
Last spring (around the same time the Cavaliers were in the 2015 playoffs) I stood alongside Dean Lind and dozens of other religious leaders and supporters from Cleveland and surrounding suburbs in a “March for Justice” organized by Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC), a non-partisan collaborative of faith communities and partners committed to social justice. The collective force of GCC members have been celebrated nationally and the group continues to organize in support of issues such as educational and criminal justice reform and a reduction in gun violence. I watched Pastor Jawanza Colvin, who was recently celebrated by Politico Magazine as The Pastor Who Took On the Police, rally thousands of people in a Jewish temple one cold February evening – putting our criminal justice system on trial for the injustices that threaten to divide our city through tragedy.
These are the true heroes whose causes will continue to benefit from the renewed hope and powerful energy that an underdog sports story and an inspiring championship victory have brought to our city. “We are winners now. Everything can change.”
As I try to hold space for the victims and families in Orlando and other communities impacted by senseless acts of violence in the last year, it’s never far from my thoughts that at least half a dozen shootings have occurred in my hometown since the devastating attack at Pulse nightclub. Who is standing on the senate floor filibustering for those families? I can tell you who is standing on the steps of Cleveland’s city hall on behalf of our children, and we have all seen first hand the magic that is possible when our community comes together in support of a cause!
That is what will continue to be our greatest legacy here in Cleveland, Ohio. In good times and bad, we are a city that strives to be united. “And we are winners now. Everything has changed.”
Awareness: Get to know your extended brothers and sisters. We are all human. Strike up a meaningful coversatiom with someone who has walked in different shoes and sees the world from a unique perspective. Real change comes from shared experiences and face-to-face contact. If everyone in your social network looks and sounds just like you, challenge yourself to go places and do things that will open your heart and mind to other cultures and new people.
Action: Learn about and support the organizations that are working toward social change in Cleveland. Here are a few that have stood out in support of recent events, and we hope you’ll share your favorites in the comments below!
The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Greater Cleveland and Equality Ohio will continue to provide information on all of the Orlando solidarity response efforts and other LGBTQ resources in our community. Use hashtag #WeAreOrlando to share your support on social media.
Do Not Stand Idly By Campaign – Add your name to a letter being sent by faith leaders and citizens to the CEOs of seven major gun manufacturers who have the power to create a more responsible and safety-focused gun industry. Do Not Stand Idly By will deliver these letters publicly to the CEOs the week of July 11.
Advocacy: Contact your local, state and executive officials (mayors, county execs, governors) and law enforcement leaders to share your concerns and personal stories. “Speak your truth and love” says The Very Rev. Tracey Lind, “it’s the most important thing you can do right now.” Not sure who to contact? Information for Ohio’s state and local officials can be found online here.
And if you want to share your concerns about gun violence, contact the Do Not Stand Idly by Campaign to find out if your local representatives are among the 92 jurisdictions in support of responsible gun manufacturing!
JOIN THE CAUSE – To spread the love and continue supporting great causes in Cleveland and beyond, just share this post and SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER. It’s a weekly dose of inspiration and an easy way to support all the good causes in our community! @GoodCauseCLE